Corruption is becoming more American than hot dogs, burgers, and obesity. Mark Twain once said “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” He said this in the 19th century, and yet the statement is more poignant today than ever before. The country is facing an epidemic, and it’s about time we wake up.
Lobbying is nothing new, but as government expands, corruption grows. In 1789, Pennsylvania senator William Maclay spoke of merchants who fought against tariff bills by spoiling congressmen with “treats, dinners, attentions.” In a Forbes article by Michael Maiello, one can better understand the dirty business of lobbying. Within the piece, corruption is unpacked and compared to the bribery that happens in developing nations. Maillo states this kind of corruption happens where ‘rule of law is questionable’. The only difference between lobbying and bribery is that a bribe attempts to circumvent, while lobbying seeks to change a law. In many ways, the comparisons made by Forbes showcase the greater problem of American corruption. In other countries, bribery works for a definite amount of time and assures a certain outcome. Lobbying can be indefinite, it is a puppeteer style of influence which is unique to America.
Philip Wallach from the Brookings institute asserts that 21st-century lobbying is so saturated, that an arms race is happening. A race in which the ‘arms manufacturers’, also known as our congressmen, get the spoils of war. The founders believed in a representative republic, not a hall of corporate bought off puppets. The responsibility of congress to represent their constituents is no longer at the core of our elected officials, especially with an apathetic citizenry. While this may be the dilemma of our times, there are groups who are fighting vigorously to end this plague. Represent.us is one political group that is seeking to push for local anti-corruption acts. They attempt to make change through grassroots activism, and partnerships between parties. Their primary goal is to spread policy that criminalize corruption, and forces government to be accountable to its taxpayers.
Criminalizing corruption is not a partisan issue, but it most certainly should be a priority for conservatives. The biggest struggle for this movement is that many Americans are so upset with their current circumstances and lack of truthful representation, that they believe these plans simply will not work. Tallahassee was the first in the nation to pass an anti-corruption/ethics policy that truly forces government accountability. Ultimately, the challenge of corruption lies in the hands of the electorate. People need to come to terms with their current representatives, and ask themselves “Is this person truly putting my interests first?”.